Girl Gone Viral is the second title in Alisha Rai’s Modern Love series. I liked it more than the first book in the series, probably because the dynamics and characters in this story are very different from The Right Swipe. Katrina and Jas have a sweet friends/ colleagues-to-lovers story, and it was a refreshing change of pace from the glut of enemies-to-lovers novels being published lately. Also refreshing was watching two adults without a lot of sexual experience fumble around–not everyone is a porn star their first time–although they caught on remarkably quickly, apparently. Perhaps that comes from being two people so attuned to each other and so eager to please the other.
One of the most frustrating plot devices in romance novels is often the one where everything could have been solved if only the characters had communicated and/or been honest with each other. But Girl Gone Viral actually uses that device believably and effectively. How do you communicate your long-held tender feelings with…your employer? With your loyal and indispensable employee? Katrina is very much aware of the potential power imbalance in their relationship, and Jas is very much aware of his duty, and as a result we get a gentle slow burn of a relationship between two kind and devoted people.
People with a lot of baggage, though. Wow. Katrina suffers from severe anxiety, complete with debilitating anxiety attacks. Jas is a veteran with his own traumatic past, who appears to suffer from serious PTSD (although it is never named as such). I love that this book is so brutally honest in showing the reality of living with these conditions. At the same time, reading about these conditions could feel exhausting sometimes. I think Rai communicated skillfully how frustrating it must be for people who must constantly deal with struggles like this. But reading about it wasn’t always enjoyable. I did like that both characters were eventually willing to seek any necessary help for their conditions and to communicate their struggles honestly with their loved ones.
Jas is a smoking hot hero. I kept picturing him as Deep Singh (without the turban) from the comic Super Sikh (which I absolutely loved) complete with those rippling muscles, his beard and the metal bracelet. I have never read about a romance starring an Indian Sikh hero before, but it was everything I hoped it’d be. Katrina is pretty easy to picture too, as she’s described as a half-Thai, half-white former model who married into wealth and is now an investor who loves to cook and be a homebody. Sound familiar? Yes, I kept picturing Chrissy Teigen the whole time too. She is a sweet character, kinder than some around her deserve, and it’s easy to root for both her and Jas.
I love the strong sense of family in this story as well, both Katrina’s found family with Rhiannon and Jia, and with Jas’ birth family. Jas’ farming background, with his family of wealthy farmers, was also interesting. I don’t tend to associate farming with wealth, having grown up around small family farms in Pennsylvania, so that took some mental adjustment. I loved the idea of a large Sikh farming community though, especially with the welcome inclusion of other cultures.
I was also intrigued at the romance Rai seemed to be setting up for Jia in the next novel. I wouldn’t have expected it, but I’m here for it. Representation matters. Jia is already a terrific character, helping to break stereotypes, but I enjoyed getting to know her more in this book and look forward to hearing from her and her possible love interest more in the next (unannounced) book in the series.
So, if you enjoy contemporary romances with truly diverse representation, and characters grappling with real issues, all while getting down and dirty with someone sweet, please do check out Girl Gone Viral. I think you’ll enjoy it too.
Thank you to #Netgalley and Harper Collins for this advanced copy of #GirlGoneViral . This is my honest opinion.